What always impressed me about Zaki's work was that she was able to keep that just anger hot and alive, but she also knew how to keep it properly focused, to keep it in check and not to let it consume her entire being. "Combat breath" she calls it in one of her essays. Mastering the anger rather than being mastered by it. (Michael Dennehy: "Ntozake Shange: On a Brilliant Balance of Anger and Poetry," Literary Hub, December 1, 2016)Last year our contributors sought meaning and inspiration in the face of environmental concerns, political dissent, divisiveness, war, discrimination, and suffering. In Bacopa Literary Review's 2018 edition, the work as a whole is even tougher, more demanding, angrier. Metaphorically knocked out by the clout and courage in these poets' and writers' voices, I found heart in the notion of combat breath.
Readers, you too will benefit from combat breathing as you engage with the works in these pages. As a prelude to this issue, I've devised the found poem below of key phrases from its contents. Inhale, exhale, slowly, deeply. Release your fear, inspire a survival mindset.
A culture ignorant of reverence, currency cold, hard,
dark hills, cultivation of scabs, scratchings of desire,
stand before the bar charged with racism, tangles, decays.
So much feels wrong, another chapter of slow death,
waiting to take your heart in its teeth. Reams
of dark matter unravel as nature rises through depths
of lantern shadows, to the thread Atropos will cut
for each of us: oh, this conflux is fucked for sure.
Earth locks us by hard turns in its round embrace, and
don't we tremble at our stations with bleak temptation
to despair? To raise is to bend, not break, yet how
the heart contrives to tint the glare of a boisterous sun.
Minds go mad to plot the coming revenge. Un-
penitent seekers, almost-reformed skeptics squinting
in the bright light: though all departures taste like loss,
step away from the comfort of narrow familiarity,
leave a trail of shredded paper, cry, curse, forget every-
thing on your way. You cannot look at surface only, must
dig down, smell the perfume of righteous anger, see how
a poet--neither angel nor beast--can make you feel.
Stare into the eyes of the tiger, push that Sisyphean
boulder up the hill, one foot then the other, scraping
against the pull of gravity and family. Release
the breath you didn't realize you were holding.
Become less fear, more sigh.